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Erin Ross Sep 22
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Neanderthals were slow to grow and a lot like us

Skeleton of the Neanderthal child(Credit: Paleoanthropology Group MNCN-CSIC)

An analysis of a young fossilized Neanderthal reveals that their brains may have grown more slowly like humans, according to a study published Thursday in Science. The 7-year-old child's brain was 87.5% the size of an adult Neanderthal's brain, while 7-year-old humans' brains are about 95% the size of an adult's. This "fits with the generally held idea that Neanderthal's brains were bigger" than ours, writes Nicholas St. Fleur for the New York Times. That's because slow brain growth is associated with larger brain size.

Why it matters: Young fossils are rare, but contain a wealth of information about how a species grew and developed. Neanderthals appear to be our closest cousins, so the more we understand our similarities and differences, the better we'll understand the earliest years of our species. And knowing that could help us learn why humans are still around, and Neanderthals are extinct.